Ashraf Ali

My motorcycle is my medicine

I’ve been coughing up a lung, feeling quite sick for the last few days. My fever has lingered like a bad girlfriend, refusing to let go. I’ve ingested smoothies, cereal, and medicine to quell the symptoms. So far, it feels like there is a road to recovery. My illness is slowing down. But it’s not quite there yet.

The clock was ticking this morning. I had to get into the office. It’s been a week since I got on my relatively new bike, a 2001 BMW R1100R. The bike was calling my name, beckoning me to ride.

I pull on my gloves, strap on my helmet, turn on a song in my headset, and get on my bike. The BMW is large, a monstrosity with cool, curvy lines running through its body. Its black paint is stained with scratches and streaks. The odometer read barely over 10k, a sign of a bike still yearning for more road time.

I mount the bike, trying to get my leg over the saddle and on to the peg. I shift the weight of the bike, gripping the handlebars. I feel like I could drop it at any time, the 500lb beast. But, like rocking a child gently, I balance the bike between my hips, and press the ignition button. My BMW begins rumbling, waking up without a fuss. I shift into first gear and slowly release the clutch. I flash back to my motorcycle class, “Open the mouth, feed the baby. You’ve gotta do both at the right time.” I twitch the throttle, let the clutch out, and ride off to the stop light. I wait at the red light, the music playing through my headset. I’m mouthing a countdown, a few agonizing seconds with a voracious engine between my legs.

Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Just as I feel the impatience crawl under my skin, I get the green.

GO.

I let the throttle rip. The RPMs jump from 1000 to 4000. I’m hitting 3/4ths to the rev line when I shift to second gear. I slam into third. I let the engine roar. The wind is exploding past my helmet. The MPH gauge reads 40, then, 50, then 90. It probably went higher but I didn’t dare look down. I flex my bike on a sweeping curve on the George Washington Parkway. I flash my right signal for a fraction of a second before I lean into the lane. The music in my helmet rocks with the rhythm of the road.

I go over a small bump and feel its reverberations past my lower back. The bike stays compliant. The chassis is responsive and agile, willing to play at the tug of a handlebar. The BMW gets louder and louder as I rev higher and higher. I let out a laugh, and smile, remembering how much I love motorcycling. I trim my vehicle past cars, curving along the exit to get closer to my destination. I pull up to my workplace and kill the engine. I lower the kickstand, push the bike into Park, and pull out the key.

I take off my gloves, turn off my headset, take off my helmet. My hair is in a tussle, wimpy strands that need a band to hold them back. I walk in to work and gave my morning salutations to Mrs. Gloria, the front desk assistant. I went into the elevator and felt my heavy breath. The adrenaline, my blood rushing, the smile that I couldn’t wipe off. I walk into work knowing that today, inshallah, was going to be a good day, cough and fever be damned.